Electricity is a standard by which we judge national development — we categorize countries as “undeveloped,” “developing” or “developed” based upon electrical grids and citizens’ access to them. Electricity is so ubiquitous that it really only receives attention when something goes wrong. For most in the developed world, electricity is just there.
Innovation in Electrical Engineering
It takes many people to maintain the machines that power our cities, including those who invent new technologies to harness energy and convert it to a usable form. These are electrical engineering design professionals — they are responsible for the planning, analysis, creation and arrangement of electrical systems.
Electrical engineering design is at an exciting stage. In conjunction with software developers, electrical engineers are helping to create The Internet of Things. Data journalist Jon Bruner describes this movement as “making the physical environment accessible in the same way that the Internet has become accessible over the last 20 years.” Electrical engineers are a reason “Hardware development is becoming an agile discipline, and is starting to look much more like software development.” As hardware prototyping and production become more streamlined, electrical engineers are creating more and more connected devices.
Areas of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things encompasses many areas of electrical engineering design. One is lighting design. Engineers do not only design these systems, they also ensure they are safe. As IEEE member Byron G. Byraiah outlines, lighting design is concerned with the analysis of factors such as “average illuminance, equivalent spherical illuminance, uniformity ratios, visual comfort probability, special purpose lighting, and the requirements of the local, state, and federal and ASHRAE 90.1 Energy Efficiency standards, and building Codes.”
Lighting design engineers work in a variety of industries. Commercial and architectural lighting are two popular examples, while theatrical lighting design is a little less common. Some engineers go on to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering to stand out in the job market, but whichever industry you choose, its lighting design will draw upon both aesthetic and practical knowledge.
Communications systems design is also seeing a boost from the Internet of Things. Given that all these new smart objects must be networked, communications design engineers are more necessary than ever. Byraiah points out that “Human factors engineering, cabling requirements, installation requirements, performance requirements, backup power requirements, the interrelationship of the various systems, and applicable regulatory requirements” are the main areas of focus for these engineers.
A final example of electrical engineering design in the Internet of Things is instrumentation and control design. Instrumentation and control design most often deals with systems automation. A true Internet of Things requires the “things” to run themselves at least part of the time. Electrical engineers ensure the “reliability of control of critical processes, safety of personnel, and suitability of instruments and control devices in the environment in which they are installed” (Byraiah).
The Paths to Electrical Engineering Design
While there are different specializations to choose from once you have decided to pursue electrical engineering, there are some commonalities among the options. Being an engineer requires at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Accredited engineering schools are all over the nation, but fewer schools offer advanced degrees. In order to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering, you must find one of the select schools that offer this line of study.
Fortunately, a master’s degree in electrical engineering is more accessible now than it has been in the past. Many engineering programs are now available online, which allows working engineers to pursue advanced degrees without leaving their jobs. Some engineering firms even foot the bill for their employees, and other students can receive assistance from loans or grants. Veterans and active service members can even apply G.I. Bill benefits to graduate school.
The Internet of Things is only going to grow. We have already witnessed a surge in software, and now hardware is becoming the next frontier in electrical engineering design for a new generation of engineers.
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